25 June 2019
Chandigarh: The ruling BJP in Haryana seems to be favouring jailed Dera Sacha Sauda sect chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who was convicted in August 2017 for raping two of his disciples and is now seeking parole, saying this is his right owing to his 'good conduct' in jail.
The self-styled godman, who has a huge following in this region, has sought a parole of 42 days for tending the sprawling fields in his sect's headquarters in Sirsa town, some 250 km from the state capital.
Cabinet minister Anil Vij told a media channel: "Parole is his right", citing his good behaviour in jail.
Gurmeet Ram Rahim was sentenced in August 2017 to 20 years in jail for raping two women.
A special CBI court in Panchkula this January also sentenced him and three others to life imprisonment for the murder of a journalist over 16 years ago.
The 51-year-old is currently lodged in the high-security Sunaria jail in Rohtak.
Jail Minister K.L. Panwar said: "He made a request which we forwarded to the Sirsa district administration. Further action will be taken based on the report."
It is learnt that the district administration is awaiting a reply from central security and intelligence agencies and also from the Sirsa District Magistrate on whether his parole at this time is feasible or not.
Officials say his parole could create law and order problems in the state at the time of his release and surrender later.
In jail, Ram Rahim spends most of his time growing vegetables and fruits. He earns Rs 20 daily for putting in eight hours for farming, which comes under the unskilled work category.
As per the jail superintendent, Ram Rahim's conduct in jail is like a "disciplined inmate".
His conviction on August 25, 2017, had led to violence in Panchkula and Sirsa, leaving 41 people dead and over 260 injured.
Ram Rahim was patronized by political leaders and parties of Punjab and Haryana for nearly two decades due to his ability to shift the votes of his followers.
Opposition parties say that the Manohar Lal Khattar government in the state is trying to woo the electorate ahead of the Assembly elections slated in October by favouring the jailed self-styled godman.
At this, the Jail Minister told the media: "Do not link it with elections. If we had such an intention we would have released him before Lok Sabha elections."
Panwar said the Dera Sacha Sauda sect chief is following due procedure. "He has applied for parole, which he is entitled to. There is a procedure involved."